Sermons, Uncategorized

Jesus Is the Resurrection and the Life Even Now

“The Resurrection of Lazarus” by James Tissot

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Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the Resurrection on the Last Day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die’” (John 11:21-26).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Due to “social distancing” a lot of people have been binge watching shows on streaming services like Netflix, Disney +, and Amazon Prime. One of the video features of Amazon Prime that I’ve found useful is X-ray. X-ray allows you to pause a film and find out more information. When you press pause, a menu pops up that allow you to move deeper into what is happening. X-ray helps you find out more about the actors, identify the soundtrack, or get background information on the scene. It is a way of entering more deeply into a movie.

I would like to do that with our Gospel for today. Pause it for a moment and enter more deeply into what is happening.

Our text is the account of the raising of Lazarus. That’s what we call it: The raising of Lazarus. No spoiler alert needed here! Indeed, this is the climax of the story: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. And that is a very significant part of the story. But if you pause the story… let’s say at the moment when Martha first speaks with Jesus… then you find it is not just about Jesus raising Lazarus or the fallout with the Jewish religious establishment that hastens Jesus’ crucifixion.

Now, the story is about Jesus comforting Martha. If you were to title this scene, it might be, “Jesus comforts Martha on the long road to the Resurrection.” And that has much to say to you and me, now, at this point in time. You see, while the Resurrection on the Last Day is our greatest comfort and hope, we spend most of our lives, here and now, on the long road to the Resurrection; and so what Jesus does for Martha, how He comforts her in her sorrow and mourning and distress, can be encouraging for us today as well.

When her brother Lazarus became ill, Martha sent word to Jesus. She asked for Jesus to come. Unfortunately, it took a while for Him to appear. Now, when Jesus finally does arrive, her brother is dead, and her life is filled with sorrow.

If you were to freeze this scene, you would see Martha standing there on the road with Jesus, looking to the past and looking to the future, wanting to be anywhere but in here and now. Martha knows what could have been: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” And Martha knows what will be: “I know that he will rise again in the Resurrection on the Last Day.” But what could have been and what will be do not change what is right now. Her brother is dead. Her Lord is late. And her life is filled with sorrow.

This moment for Martha is familiar to us. It is where we spend most of our lives… on the road to the Resurrection. When we look at the past, we know what could have been. When we look to the future, we know what will be for us in Jesus. But right now, we stand in the middle of doubt and despair. What could have been and what will be do not change the present moment in our lives.

Then Jesus speaks. He says to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Notice the use of the present tense. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus does not point to the past—I was the Resurrection and the Life—nor to the future—I will be the Resurrection and the Life. No, Jesus speaks about the present. I am the Resurrection and the Life.

Jesus takes the power of Resurrection and the promise of Life and buries it in His own flesh. This Jesus, the One who is speaking to you right now, He is the Resurrection and the Life for you even now.

What this means is that before Lazarus walks out of the tomb, before Jesus is raised from the dead, right now, as Martha stands there in the middle of that long road to the Resurrection, Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life for her. He has come to be the Resurrection and the Life for her even in sorrow.

In this moment, before Lazarus is raised from the dead, what does it mean for Jesus to be the Resurrection and the Life? It means the Resurrection is a hand that can be touched, a voice that can be heard, a tear that is shed, and a holy conversation that happens with Jesus in the middle of sorrow.

What Jesus teaches us is we do not have to wait until the body comes out of the tomb to participate in the Resurrection. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now. We do not need to silence the suffering, to mask the mourning, to placate the pain. Instead, we can receive them as holy. And, that is what He gives us: Moments of holy conversation. He chooses to bring the wonder of His Life to us now, as we walk the long road to the Resurrection.

So, today, let us pause for a moment in the story—our story, your own story. Let us enter more deeply into what is happening, here and now. Whenever you are on that long journey to the Resurrection, Jesus has come to be with you. He is the Resurrection and the Life, even now, filling your present days with His love. And what Good News is that for times like these!

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even as you consider your own mortality or mourn those who have died in the faith. Those who died in the faith are not dead, because the Lord is not the Lord of the dead but of the living. Their bodies rest in the grave for now, but they live even now with Christ. You have His promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though He die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” It is true for the saints who have gone before us, and it is true for you.

Be on guard, then, against the devil’s temptations which would steal this life away. Be aware of the error of Martha, who thought that Jesus’ power was great but limited, really only good for working wonders where life remained. In doing so, she thought Jesus weaker than life rather than actually being Life. You will constantly be tempted to believe that Jesus is good for helping out in this life, but nothing more than that.

The danger here is twofold. On the one hand, you’ll have no hope for eternity, because you’ll think that Jesus is only good for improving this life for as long as it lasts. On the other hand, you’ll be terribly disappointed in Jesus because life tends only to get harder and more difficult as times goes along, and you’ll think that Jesus’ power to improve things is very low indeed.

It is not Jesus’ power that is low, but your expectations. He has not come to make life a little sweeter on your way to eternal death and grave. He has come to deliver you from eternal death and grave. In His will and wisdom, that may not mean an easy life here at all. But it does mean that He will raise you up from this world of sin and death to life everlasting. Commit all things to the Lord, of course, including your needs of daily bread for this life; but know and rejoice most of all that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even in the midst of loneliness and isolation. Jesus promises: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:16–19).

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even in the midst of anxiety and fear. Hear His comforting, reassuring words: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even in the midst of sickness and disease. Illness and disease are the consequences of sin, but Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

If disease should seek to harm you, Jesus’ words from our text are ultimately true for you as well, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of Man may be glorified through it.” Jesus has overcome sin, sickness, and death. Even if illness should seem to have its way for a time, Jesus has the last Word. He will bring healing, if not in this life, then in the Resurrection.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even in the midst of your burdens and cares. Hear His invitation and promise: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now! Offering Himself to you through His means of grace.

In the water and Word of Holy Baptism, He works the forgiveness of sins, rescues you from death and devil, and gives salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare. Hear His promise: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

 Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Hear His promise: “Take, eat; this is My body… Drink of it, all of you, for this [cup] is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28). In the bread and the wine of His Supper, Jesus offers you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even now!

Hear His promise: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:22-23). Through His holy Word, He shows you your sins, calls you to repentance, and speaks to you His absolution through the voice of His called and ordained servant: You are forgiven for all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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